A number of years ago, I received a letter from a rescuer who had spent the last 50 years trying to save animals. It was clear she loves animals very deeply. But she believes she is in the minority; believes that there is a crisis of uncaring, and because of that, believes animals have to die in shelters.
I spent years in rescue, working in animal rights, and prosecuting animal abuse as a Deputy District Attorney. I, too, once shared her view. While trying to make the world a better place for animals was gratifying, being immersed in work designed to combat animal abuse meant that I was reminded of it constantly and so I became myopic, believing that most people didn’t care about animals or their suffering. I focused primarily on the bad things people did to animals, and became blind to the good. Most regrettably, I lost the ability to perceive how most people really felt about animals and with that, an accurate sense of the animal movement’s potential for success. But the growing success of the No Kill movement changed me. And it is growing.
Our success is spreading to every part of the country. And everywhere it is succeeding, it is succeeding because of people. In short, I learned that there was enough love and compassion for animals in every community to overcome the irresponsibility of the few and my heart swelled.
No Kill is a love story. It’s not about a romance, a friendship between two people, or how one human feels about another. It is about how 100 million individuals of one species—humans—feel about 165 million individuals from others. But it is a love story just the same. Three out of four Americans already believe it should be illegal for shelters to kill animals. Why? Because Americans truly love dogs and cats. Our job is to give voice to that love.
Conventional wisdom says animals have to die because people do not care enough about them. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Our collective experience in Tompkins County and then Reno and then Austin and now in hundreds of communities nationwide proves that the story of the eight million animals entering shelters in this nation does not have to be a tragedy. Shelters can respond humanely and compassionately without resorting to killing. These shelters can be temporary way stations for animals, providing good care and plenty of comfort until they find loving homes. And hundreds have. To do that elsewhere, shelters need to embrace the community.
Through my work in the No Kill movement, I have encountered people from all walks of life—every demographic imaginable: every age, class, culture, and political leaning—united, in spite of their other differences, by their love and concern for animals. I have witnessed, time and time again, how the public rallies to the call for reform of their local shelter, and how, with their assistance, No Kill is now succeeding in various and diverse communities across this country. These experiences have combined to erode my despair and replace it with great optimism. And I am constantly reminded of how much people truly love animals in countless little ways.
Not too long ago, I was standing next to an older gentleman at a pharmacy when I asked the clerk for lancets for my diabetic cat. Lancets are used for diabetic testing. It’s the device that punctures the skin to extract blood for monitoring. When the pharmacist asked me what kind I wanted, I said “Give me the finest you have because it is for my cat.” The gentleman turned to me, pumped his fist in the air, and said to the pharmacist: “Yes, give him the finest, because nothing is too good for our pets!” I smiled at him and said, “That is true. Nothing is too good for our pets.”
But when I said “finest,” I actually meant “fine” as in the smallest needle point or highest gauge because the blood was drawn from the cat’s ear and I did not want it to be painful. Nonetheless, experiences like that, which I encounter frequently, remind me just how widespread our love for companion animals is as a society. And it is that love that gives me faith that we will fix our broken animal shelter system.
If you remember nothing else about the No Kill philosophy, remember this: Killing an animal is not an act of love. It is an act of violence.
No Kill is love.
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Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902
And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902